The food tree planting programme in our garden continues, but it is no longer so easy to find sites for new plantings. One recent purchase, a carob tree, will be needing space to spread, and the only suitable site to accommodate it is on the stony slope of the creek bank. It remains in its pot, awaiting an energy burst from someone to dig the necessary hole. My resident hole-digger has suggested (more than once) that no further trees should be acquired unless he has confirmed that a suitable site available.
But last weekend I couldn't resist this sweet, healthy looking, baby cinnamon tree.
I could just imagine myself, in 3 - 4 years, turning out some home-cooked, cinnamon flavoured, carob bars!
Well, I did get just a bit carried away. Carob trees, it turns out, are dioecious (each tree is either male or female) and for the production of carob nuts you will need one of each. Trouble is, there seems to be no way of telling the tree's sex until it flowers. And that only happens on maturity, which might be several years away.
My informant told me that on her property (considerably larger than our one-acre house lot) she had planted several trees, in order to be sure that there will be at least one fertile female on some distant date.
Okay, so a carob is a handsome tree, and it will still make an attractive addition to the garden.
Then the little cinnamon. Before bringing it home we made the decision that one of the ornamentals would be removed to be replaced by the cinnamon.
This tree, a 'Pride of Barbados', was voted out. Although at times it can be very attractive, as is shown here in bloom, most of the year it is straggly and very prickly.
Another surprise. The tree label read 'Cinnamomum Cassia - Cinnamon Bark Tree' and the tag carried the statement, 'dried bark used as a spice'.
However, only after I began reading did I discover that what I had bought was a Chinese Cinnamon tree, also known as 'False Cinnamon'. Its bark and the powder ground from it is known as cassia - a spice with both medicinal and culinary uses. The leaves are known as Indian Bay leaves and used in the same way as the bay leaves we know.
I took comfort from an old article I found, Scary spice, in the Melbourne Age, which pointed out that there has always been confusion between cassia and the real cinnamon:
'Cinnamon is slightly sweeter than cassia, which has traces of bitterness, and a fractionally more pungent penetrating fragrance.' '...If you walk past a bakery and smell what you think is the delightful waft of cinnamon, don't trust your olfactory senses. It may well be cassia that's causing your mouth to flood with saliva and your stomach to rumble. Sydney spice expert Ian Hemphill suspects up to 98 per cent of Australian bakers, deliberately or unwillingly, use cassia instead of cinnamon.'
So there you have it. I'll be planting my Cinnamomum cassia alongside the purely decorative Cassia fistula, and up the hill a bit from the spreading Ceratonia siliqua (aka carob).
I hope they all have long and happy lives -- even though I may not be around to savour any of their spices.